The Walk of Dreams
Sylvia & Bill VanAtta bought their home in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire over 13 years ago and started Many Tears Animal Rescue from there. Although we take dogs from all kinds of situations, Many Tears was primarily set up to rescue ex-breeding dogs who have never known love or lived in a home. Very often these dogs have never seen the outside world and their first glimpse of daylight and sunshine is the day they are rescued.
The rescue has grown hugely since it first opened and now homes around 3,500 dogs a year, many of whom would not be alive today if Many Tears had not taken them in. The dog's rehabilitation starts from the day they arrive and lots of them experience their first taste of home life in one of the many brilliant foster homes we have on our books. This is really their first step in experiencing what life in a home as a pet is like and they start to realise that they are safe, that hands can be kind and hearts loving .
Sylvia & Bill are now looking at the future as, like all of us, one day they will need to retire and they will have to sell their property as they would not be able to live on the rescue premises. So in order for Many Tears to continue it will need to own its own property (hopefully the one it's currently on) but if there is not enough money at the time Sylvia and Bill retire then something smaller.
This is a long term project for the future, as to raise the money needed could possibly take a very long time. At the moment we are estimating the value of the current property to be around £500,000 but property prices rise and fall all the time. Sylvia is going to give the project a kick start by doing a huge cross country sponsored walk with some of her dogs. She will be setting off from outside the ITV Studios in London on 8 May 2017 and walking a staggering 280 miles to the rescue in Wales.
Please donate/sponsor Sylvia if you would like to help secure the long term future of Many Tears. No matter how large or small every penny counts and help ensure those dogs who are so desperate for help now and in the future have the chance to learn about love and life in a home.
To find out more about Many Tears please visit our website at www.manytearsrescue.org
The next step was to test the tent outside. I picked a beautiful evening. The fading sun washed red across the passing clouds of the dusky Welsh sky. As dusk turned to dark faster than I had hoped, I could barely see two steps ahead. I fumbled my way with excited dogs, my trusty pop-up, a dodgy torch and an ex-military sleeping bag that seemed big enough to hold an entire army.
As I struggled along for half a mile to the side of my favourite stream, I found a beautiful mossy flat bank perfect for pitching a tent. As the tent popped up, the dogs popped back, almost pulling me into the murky shadows of the briefly lit stream. Luckily, I held my dignity and managed to keep from slipping. The five dogs snuggled inside the cosy space and I unrolled the sleeping bag to discover I was not wrong. It was huge. My mind wandered “if only half the army were in it, then maybe it might actually be warm!” I stopped the fantasy there and lay there in the dark for 10 minutes, until I realised that camping alone essentially consists of being scared, miserable and very uncomfortable. A far cry from my days of Girl Guide adventures!
The dogs however lay stretched out and seemingly content – mainly I think because they had the lion’s share of the tent and I was left to fend for my own corner. And so, ten minutes in I decided to get up and head back home to my warm and cosy bed, Having a foreboding feeling about the ensuing pop-down situation, I left the tent for the morning. When I went to collect it at dawn the next day, it was caught on a branch, dangling precariously over the stream. As I slithered down the bank to retrieve I made a note to self: “This walk is probably the most damn fool-hardy thing I have ever done in my life!” I wandered back, muddy and slightly damp with a half-popped down tent flopping around on my back, and I cursed myself for not opting to just be a house wife. I’m sure Bill would have been thrilled!
One of my most gruelling training circuits is approximately 10 miles, across hilly terrain, jumping over rocks and streams, often in the pouring rain, and never meeting a soul – except the damn worms that increase my training time from three hours to what feels more like a week (as if they are in the middle of the road I have to stop and help them to the verge). This relativistic time dilation propels my brain into an overdrive of worried thinking. I worry about the first part of my walk – the London roads and the speed of my worm-rescue abilities in traffic. I worry about walking with 15 giant poo bags. What if there are no bins. I will just be the crazy lady, with a team of dogs and a swarm of flies following her, looking slightly perplexed and knocking on doors of strangers asking to use their bin.
I then start to worry about water. Carrying enough each day for five dogs and me. That’s a lot of water. And then I worry about actually having to drink it. The reason being that I have been blessed with a miniature bladder. I blame my mini-bladder on my dad. When I was very young, perhaps 3 or 4, I climbed into bed with him when he was having a lie-in. My Mum brought him a cup of tea, which I grabbed and took a big gulp. I am not sure what I was expecting, but I can remember being horrified by the foul-tasting tan muck that haunted my mouth for the rest of the day. I remember feeling so sick that I left his bed in a dramatic performance worthy of an Oscar, and have NEVER drunk tea again.
So, for my whole life, when everyone at work took their 50 tea breaks a day, I never did. Hence the microscopic bladder. Because of this long-standing issue, I often get severe dehydration, resulting in a desperate glugging of a few cups of water, only to result in a waterfall of pee that just won’t stop. When I’m training, slash rescuing worms on the lanes, I often find myself busting with nowhere to duck out and relieve myself. This results in me humming, often with worm in hand, and doing a little 80’s hip jiggle to take my mind off it. The jiggle is possibly not something that should be expressed in public, but my rendition of ‘Let it Go’ is, I have to say, more than spectacular. The choice of words however, accompanied by the welsh streams shushing in the background is not necessarily conducive to a helpful distraction.
So, I talked to a friend about my phobia. “What if I am in London walking,” I blurted out, “dogs in one hand, fifteen bags of dog poo in the other, desperate for a pee, no loos, no dog poo bins and a back pack weighed down with bottles of undrunk water” I continued to escalate my already hysterical state and screamed, “THEN WHAT!!!!!” My friend calmly Poured me a small Malibu with a drip of diet coke, fearful of once more initiating a liquid-based freakout, and said, “just tell everyone you’re pregnant. Pregnant women are allowed to pee in the street!!” I pulled the Malibu bottle towards me, and she left. Walk of Dreams! And all I can dream about is a toilet. Maybe I could put this on my sponsor form. Please sponsor me and offer me your toilet!!
Well it has given all a laugh thinking about this, but it’s a real worry to me.
The next problem is the tent. It’s a two-man affair, which is a concern because a) I’m a woman, and b) I now have five dogs to take with me rather than the initial two! Having decided against the cheap and leaky pop up tent, I ordered one that came with a book called ‘Tent erection for Dummies’. Well, given that tent erection has never been on my to-do list, I found myself to be in the Dummy category quite quickly. Having spent hours trying to get the damn thing up, I asked for help only to find some poles were missing! I may have a child’s bladder but at least I’m not stupid!
Then I start thinking (again!) What if all the dogs get in first (which they will) and settle on the sleeping mat (which they will) and I won’t have the heart to kick them off (which I won’t). How will I walk the next day? Why am I taking so many? How do I choose who to leave? I feel like Meryl Streep in Sofie’s Choice – the cheap version! This is all just so complicated. I pray it will be worth it in the end. Now awaiting new poles to arrive so I can experiment. More next week.